TLDR: The cause area of mental health is growing in popularity in the EA movement but it is also often limited by funding. As such, it seemed like a uniquely promising area to start a funding circle. This circle is roughly modeled on Farmed Animal Funders, and aims to connect funders to support projects in the space. If you would like to apply for funding or join the circle, you can connect via our website.
Why the area of mental health?
Mental health disorders are an important problem in the world. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, mental disorders were the seventh leading cause of health burdens in the world in 2019; causing about 5% of all disability adjusted life years, and 14% of years of life lived with a disability.
According to the WHO, mental health is the most neglected health issue and should urgently receive more global investment. The Happier Lives Institute also argues that mental health disorders are particularly neglected, especially considering that they have some of the greatest impact on life satisfaction. Additionally, some initial estimates suggest a high cost-effectiveness and there seems to be shovel-ready charities with important gaps that we can fill.
What is a funding circle?
A funding circle is a collaboration between a number of funders who typically target a certain cause area. For example, Farmed Animal Funders (FAF) is a group of funders who are all keen to support the end of factory farming. Many of these funders have varying interests and they range fairly dramatically in size. FAF has a couple of staff who help the members of the network research and find opportunities, as well as generally coordinate between them. This reduces the risk of double-funding, or missing promising opportunities. Another example is Big Bang Philanthropy.
Funding circles can be a powerful way to leverage and coordinate multiple funders that share a common interest. Often a cause area will have a number of funders; but between closed application rounds, unclear standards, and disjointed networks, the funding is not organized as well as it could be. Having different funder views is really important for a good funding ecosystem, but a funding circle has the added, massive benefit of having a centralized point of contact. This means organizations can apply as if applying to a single large funder, but gain exposure to several potential funders. The structure also means that if one member of the network discovers a promising opportunity, but it falls outside of their scope, communication channels are open and ready for them to pass the project on to a grantmaker who is a better fit.
Testing the circle
If this funding circle works well, there may be similar groups set up in the future for other cause areas.